Director's Note


As announced in our last issue of Encore, Edward Blaser has retired from Performing Arts Management after 39 years. His dedication to the office took him to a hundred different countries and included work with organizations across the globe. We will miss him.

This past spring and summer our BYU performing groups visited some intriguing places: Mongolia, China, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Alaska, to name a few. In this issue of Encore, we share photos and information about these experiences that have broadened our students’ understanding and given them the opportunity to share their skills.

Feast on this year-end review, and then turn to the back cover and dream with us about our plans for our next performance season, which will include travel and performances in the United States and grand adventures at our 2016 international destinations. More about those tours in a later issue. For now, enjoy our review of 2015.

Rex L. Barrington, Director

BYU Performing Arts Management


Performing Arts Management

Castles, Villages, and Folk Festivals


“If you appreciate what people value, they will come to love you,” an audience member in Croatia said to a member of BYU Folk Dance Ensemble. Performing under the name of American Folk Dance Ensemble, the group found plenty to appreciate in its travels in Croatia and Spain this summer. They represented the United States in three folk festivals, where castle courtyards, town squares, city streets, rest homes, and outdoor stages provided picturesque backdrops to their shows. Each festival began with a parade through the city streets in which the ensemble danced under the U.S. flag and occasionally stopped for pictures with onlookers. Through music and dance, the ensemble learned to love the Croatian and Spanish cultures while sharing their own traditions with the people they met.

The team began at the International Folklore Festival in Karlovac, Croatia. While at the festival, members of Folk Dance learned a traditional Croatian dance from Dražen Makarun, director of the Matija Gubec Croatian Dance Ensemble. Dressed in authentic, hand-embroidered Croatian costumes, the BYU students received a standing ovation after their performance in the finale of the closing ceremonies.

Performer Michael Kim felt appreciation from the Croatian audience for learning the dance: “You got the sense that they were saying, ‘The Americans are doing our dance! This is great!’”

    The ensemble spent the next week at the 39th annual “Ciudad de Burgos” International Folklore Festival in Spain. They performed each night for a capacity audience of 4,000 people, and each performance was broadcast to an estimated three million viewers.

One notable performance was the powerful joint number between the Americans and the Cubans. The collaboration was featured on the local broadcast news and in the newspaper because of recent relations announced between the two countries. “The best part of these festivals is that you are not there to compete,” says band performer Talmage Haines. “You can go to perform and appreciate the performances of others.”

The team danced in some unconventional spaces, including the courtyard of a castle built in the 1400s. During one community outreach, the group taught traditional American line and round dances to 150 children. “Being in a courtyard or town square means you can make eye contact with the audience,” Haines says. “You can make funny faces at the kids. You put a lot more energy into facial expressions and interactions with the dancers. They might not be able to hear across the space, so you have to perform with your body as well as your instrument.”

    For the Extremadura International Folk Festival in Badajoz, Spain, the team performed in a different neighboring village every day. According to student band performer Carrie Ostler, this was the pattern for most of the tour. “We’d get on a bus and they would drop us off in the middle of the Croatian or Spanish countryside,” she says. “It was a treat to be part of an effort to travel as far out as possible to where people do not have as much exposure to the performing arts. You could be a guy sitting in the park and unexpectedly have this amazing experience with American dancers.”

In addition to engaging in outreach programs for local communities, Folk Dance was privileged to share the stage with teams from Russia, Croatia, Taiwan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, Colombia, and Spain. They learned dances native to the other countries and played music with the other teams.

The ensemble explored several neighboring cities as well, including Venice, Córdoba, and Madrid. In Spain they were given guided tours by former BYU College of Humanities dean John Rosenberg (in Toledo) and by Lorum Stratton from the Texas Tech Study Abroad program (in Seville). The students also enjoyed a workshop from professional flamenco dancers.

The dancers returned home with a deeper respect for their host countries as well as for those countries whose teams they performed with. And the advice held true: as they came to appreciate and add to the beauty of the countries they visited, Folk Dance members felt love from their audiences.

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Folk Dance Ensemble performs onstage at the closing ceremony of the Extremadura International Folk Festival in Badajoz, Spain.

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Folk Dance Ensemble joins other festival participants in a parade through the streets of Badajoz, Spain, during the opening ceremony of the Extremadura International Folk Festival.


European Exchanges


With its historic red-roofed architecture, cobbled streets, and beautiful bridges connecting the banks of the Vltava River, the city of Prague served as the perfect setting to start Contemporary Dance Theatre’s 2015 summer tour. In addition to the Czech Republic, the group performed in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. In each country, the BYU students met people with extraordinary talents and a mutual love for the art of dance and made personal connections with performers from different nations.

For a community outreach in Dobřichovice, Czech Republic, Contemporary Dance Theatre visited Flight’s Children’s Home. Shy at first, the young children, many of whom had never seen contemporary dance, smiled and clapped as they watched the dancers perform in their gymnasium. When the BYU students invited the children to dance with them, they all jumped up to join the performers on the floor and learn the movements. “We connected with the kids,” says dancer Mackenzie Ballard. “We had to interact with them somehow because there was a language barrier. You don’t need language to dance, so that’s what we did.”

Contemporary Dance Theatre was pleased to participate in the 2015 New Prague Dance Festival, which hosted diverse dance groups from 15 different countries. Between performances, the festival provided workshops directed by professionals in which the dancers developed their abilities and pedagogical knowledge.

Members of a contemporary dance group from Panama became particularly close to the BYU dancers and expressed interest in the university and in applying to study there. They developed great friendships with one another. “We went in thinking, ‘What can I teach these people?’—but we realized that we have the chance to learn from others too,” Ballard says. “That’s an amazing experience and a good change of perspective.”

After six days the festival in Prague drew to a close. At the award ceremony, Contemporary Dance Theatre members waited on the edge of their seats—until their group was called for the Grand Prix Award, given to the overall best group! Festival director David Pospíšil says, “Their preparation was very professional, so it resulted that their performances were really precise also and could be admired from both the artistic and technical side.”

In Budapest the group toured the Hungarian Parliament Building and the House of Terror museum. Later they performed in the Bakelit Multi Art Center.

The BYU dancers also pulled off a flash mob in Vienna by sending a video of the number ahead of time, rehearsing with the local young adults from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once they arrived, and then performing their dance in front of Karlskirche, a baroque church.

In Bratislava, Slovakia, a senior missionary couple took the group on a tour of Bratislava Castle and then helped the dancers advertise their performance. Later that evening, people gathered around the main square to watch Contemporary Dance Theatre perform. The final number finished with the students  dancing around the audience, turning the finale into a large dance party. Interacting in such a way made them feel like a community. “Having dance be the connection between people, missionaries, and performers was a great opportunity,” says dancer Kathleen Christensen.

By the time Contemporary Dance Theatre arrived in Germany, their show in Würzburg was sold out. The reception to the team was staggering: the audience members burst into a standing ovation. The BYU group had six curtain calls before they could step off the stage and meet with the impressive audience, who were well cultured in the language of dance.

Contemporary Dance Theatre members were amazed at the people and energy they encountered in Europe. “I didn’t know what it meant to ‘go forth to serve’ in a dance capacity, but I learned that we can uplift through art,” says Christensen. “The connection we built in this trip was something I had never experienced before.”

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Contemporary Dance Theatre entertains its audience in the Main Square of Bratislava, Slovakia.

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Contemporary Dance Theatre members take a ballet workshop class hosted by the New Prague Dance Festival in the Czech Republic.

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The audience in Würzburg, Germany, gives Contemporary Dance Theatre a standing ovation.


Folk Songs for Friends


Folk songs broke language barriers this summer as BYU Wind Symphony toured in Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan. On tour, band members proved that music continues to transcend differences in culture and language and has the ability to form connections and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Traditional Folk Songs

In preparation for its tour, Wind Symphony chose folk songs from each of the host countries to share in their concerts. The chance to perform these cherished songs became a highlight for the students. “The audience would start to clap when they heard the tune of the folk songs,” says trumpeter Logan Anderson. “They were excited to hear how we treated
their music.”

The band had the special privilege of performing for the original arrangers of several Mongolian folk songs, who were invited to the concert by a contact in the Mongolian LDS Choir. These Mongolian musicians were emotionally moved by Wind Symphony’s performance.

The folk songs were also well received on the next leg of the tour. “One of my fondest memories of an audience reaction was in Korea,” says flautist Maren Hansen. “We performed an arrangement of ‘Arirang,’ a beloved national song. As I looked into the audience, I remember seeing a few older women listening with their eyes closed, silently mouthing the words to the song. It was touching to see their appreciation of what must have been a less-than-traditional performance of the song.”

 

Guest Artists

The musicians enjoyed sharing the stage with other artists, including the Mongolian LDS Choir, Busan Wind Orchestra, Eighth U.S. Army Band, and Camarata Chorale.

The Mongolian LDS Choir joined the band for performances of “High on the Mountain Top” and a folk song called “Haluun Elgen Nutag.” In Busan, South Korea, the band worked under director Jin Hyoun Baek and relished the atmosphere created by emcee Robert Holley, a national radio and TV personality. In South Korea the band also performed a concert with the Camarata Chorale celebrating the 60th anniversary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Korea.

 

School Workshops

In addition to public performances, the ensemble presented two workshops to elementary-school-age children in Japan. The symphony demonstrated with different instruments and performed in small ensembles. They played tunes from famous movies, including some Japanese films. “When we started to play a piece from My Neighbor Totoro, the kids started yelling with excitement,” recalls French horn player Anna Lenhart.

Movie scores made the perfect connection for young children, but at an exchange with the Defense University of Mongolia, the interaction was based in more classical music. The students split up by instrument for workshops in sections. Lenhart joined a group of Mongolian horn players only to realize that there was no translator, so the students could not speak to each other. The horn players from both groups played together anyway. It was not the only time the BYU students found themselves unable to speak to their counterparts at schools or rehearsals. “We couldn’t speak to each other, but we could play an entire concert because that is the way music is,” Lenhart says.

 

Cultural Connections

The students quickly came to love the generosity that permeated the cultures on tour. Detailed itineraries left little room for surprises on tour, so when the group hiked to the top of Zaisan Hill on a chilly morning to overlook the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, they were delighted to be the recipients of a surprise farewell. Many members of the local congregation of the Church showed up to sing the hymn “High on the Mountain Top” in Mongolian and to give the students chocolates and keepsakes. Mongolian culture is based in a long history of living on the plains, so when strangers arrive, they are treated like family. “That is what happened for us in Mongolia,” says artist manager Troy Streeter. “We were immediately welcomed as part of the family, and it made leaving our new friends that much harder.”

For the final concert in Japan, Lenhart was part of a small ensemble that performed “A Song for Japan,” written in memory of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. “It is a piece that moves from a lament to a song of hope,” she explains. At the end of the performance, the quintet was approached by Naoko Kawahara, a public affairs contact who worked to bring the band to Japan. Kawahara, whose hometown had been devastated by the tsunami, shared how much she was touched by the performance. The piece was a gesture of respect between two cultures through the universal language of music.

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New friends say goodbye after surprising Wind Symphony with a farewell song at Zaisan Memorial in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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The oboe section of Wind Symphony performs for school children in Fukuoka, Japan

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Wind Symphony shares the stage with students at the Defense University of Mongolia.


Nauvoo Memories


Young Ambassadors and Ballroom Dance Company did more than just take the outdoor stage in Nauvoo, Illinois, this year. The groups performed in a variety of venues and served the people in neighboring communities, where they delivered spontaneous performances in parks, engaged in outreaches, and toured historic sights.

On the first Saturday of tour, Young Ambassadors went to Hannibal, Missouri, to join in a citywide cleanup, for which the group received a ceremonial key to the city. Ballroom Dance Company went to Fort Madison, Iowa, where they removed weeds and cleaned store windows and sidewalks. They also planted fresh flowers in pots with the Carthage Kiwanis Club in Carthage, Illinois. “This tour was a wonderful reminder for us that we can serve anywhere we go,” says Young Ambassadors director Randy Boothe.

As part of an outreach program, Young Ambassadors had a memorable encounter teaching music and performing to special-needs children. They spent time talking and getting to know the children one on one. “It was an incredible thing to see the joy in their eyes of having people invest their time in them and tell them that they are loved,” says Young Ambassadors performer Matthew Davies.

Both groups enjoyed their time singing and dancing under the stars at the Nauvoo Outdoor Stage.  The open-air venue brought an unexpected set of challenges to the show. “When we were performing, I saw a beetle land on a girl’s forehead, but she just kept singing,” says Davies. “It was hard to
maintain composure.”

Young Ambassadors’ upbeat tunes also filled the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, a care facility, and city parks.

Ballroom Dance Company’s performances had dance numbers to please all crowds, including “MicTendo II,” a black-light number inspired by Pac-Man, Mario Kart, and Angry Birds that was popular with the children. Another crowd-pleaser was a 1920s-style number featuring a Charlie Chaplin character. The starting couple also changed the humorous introduction every night, going so far as to getting people from the audience to dance.

The company’s Viennese waltz medley, “The Impossible Dream,” served as the grand finale. It was originally choreographed by Roy Mavor when codirectors Lee and Linda Wakefield were student performers on the team. The Wakefields performed the number to win the cabaret national championship many years ago. This 2015 tour was the Wakefields’ last as codirectors of Ballroom Dance Company, so they based the medley on this inspiring piece. In the middle of the dance, their son Todd Wakefield, who was also on his last tour as a student performer, and his partner performed the solo. “I was in their shoes doing what had been their moment, and it was incredible,” says Todd Wakefield. “I felt like I was honoring my parents.”

At the end of Ballroom Dance Company’s final show, the team lit sparklers and surprised the Wakefields with a collection of money to send them on a retirement trip. “We started hugging and crying—and not because it was sad, but because it had been a good year,” says Ballroom Dance member Devri Lambright. “[Lee and Linda Wakefield] have made a legacy for BYU.”

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Ballroom Dance Company performs its “Disney Upon a Star” number in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Plaza.


Shelby Tagge, of Contemporary Dance Theatre, hugs a new friend at the Flight’s Children’s Home in Dobrichovice, Czech Republic.

Shelby Tagge, of Contemporary Dance Theatre, hugs a new friend at the Flight’s Children’s Home in Dobrichovice, Czech Republic.

Folk Dance performer Abram Allred dances with a member of the local branch of the LDS Church at an outreach in Badajoz, Spain.

Living Legends member Shanoah Ulibarri performs “Hoop Dance” at a school assembly in Metlakatla, Alaska.

Young Ambassadors performers (clockwise from top right) Sydney Young and Heather McDonald spend time in pioneer costumes in Old Nauvoo with young friends they met at a previous performance.

Wind Symphony visits the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue in Mongolia.

BYU Singers has a one-hour rehearsal with the Henan Art College Chorus to prepare for their concert in Kaifeng, China.

Ballroom Dance Company members pose in front of the Nauvoo Temple.

Teaching Traditions


The aurora borealis appeared in brilliant green over Alaska where Living Legends gathered around a bonfire to share stories. A part of many indigenous folktales, the lights became a symbol for the group as they interwove Native Canadian and Alaskan traditions from various tribes into their performances on tour in Montana, Canada, and Alaska, where they shared dances in communities that are a living part of the cultures they depict.

As descendants of the cultures they represent in dance, members of Living Legends took pride in bringing a piece of their ancestors’ legacy to the cities they visited. One of the places they performed at is an island in Alaska’s Inside Passage called Metlakatla, a self-governing reservation of 1,500 people, most of whom belong to the Tsimshian Nation. “There’s a lot more pressure to be more culturally correct,” says Keilani Akoi, a Living Legends performer. “We want to portray it the best we can, and there’s more precision in the numbers.”

The tour focused greatly on assembly shows for children, who gathered together to watch Living Legends tell stories through music, dance, and costume. One young girl in Penticton, British Columbia, joined in singing while the group performed “I Am a Child of God.” “It was so innocent of her,” Akoi says. “As a group, we’re always more affected by children.” The principal of the Alaska Military Youth Academy said that while all his students loved the show, the Polynesian and Native students were particularly moved because they saw their own cultures and heritage carefully and artistically portrayed.

The children were ecstatic when the dancers descended from the stage to greet them. The group talked about the meaning behind each dance, and the young students were invited to touch the costumes and ask questions. The dancers appreciated the chance to preserve a culture by teaching its traditions to a younger generation. “It changes the way you dance,” Living Legends member Samuel Arce says. “The greatest lesson I experienced was the need to connect with the show, because it’s the story of our lives.”

While many of the youth in the audiences had come from small communities with few opportunities for higher education, the interaction with the group allowed them to broaden their horizons. The youth learned more about universities and future prospects and were inspired to see people from their own culture completing their educations while sharing their heritage. The young students could see that their own positive action had the potential to determine their happiness. A principal of one of the schools said that because of the BYU performance, his students saw for the first time a broadened picture of possibilities for their lives.

Like the splendor of the northern lights dancing across the Alaskan sky, Living Legends brought a powerful message of noble cultures for audiences to remember and celebrate.

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Living Legends presents Mayor Audrey Hudson of Metlakatla, Alaska, a Native American sand painting as a thank you.

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Children in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, are introduced to the hoops used in the “Hoop Dance,” which symbolize eternity.


Choral Collaboration


Cheers and applause rattled the choir room in Beijing when the door opened. One would have expected a rock star to enter, but the cause of the commotion was in fact Dr. Ronald Staheli and BYU Singers, the premier classical choir at Brigham Young University. Chinese choirs enthusiastically welcomed the BYU group like this in several cities throughout its 2015 tour, in which months of preparation culminated in a series of joint concerts across China.

BYU Singers taught workshops and presented concerts while on tour, setting an example of flawless phrasing and impeccable intonation (which the group is known for internationally) for the Chinese choirs. “One can speak a lot about good choral singing and good choral tone,” says Staheli, who directs BYU Singers, “but to have examples for each point greatly increases the learning and understanding of the principles being discussed.”

Staheli founded BYU Singers in 1984, and although he had traveled to China on two previous occasions as a guest conductor and lecturer, this tour was the choir’s first to China. It was also Staheli’s last tour as director of BYU Singers. He retired at the end of the 2015 season.

 

Collaboration

BYU Singers’ tour to China involved more collaboration with local artists than any other BYU tour to date. Months in advance Staheli and the local Chinese conductors coordinated repertoires so that each choir would have time to prepare the same pieces. The collaboration resulted in BYU Singers performing eight joint concerts with eight different community or university choirs in several regions of China.

In each city, BYU Singers and the local Chinese choir workshopped and rehearsed together for an hour before joining on stage to perform a concert in a number of languages. “We always sang one in Chinese and one in English together. They often smiled at our Chinese, and we enjoyed their excellent attempt in English,” Staheli says of singing with the various groups. “The combination of choirs made a stirring statement at the end of the concerts we shared.”

The Chinese audience members paid special attention to Staheli’s new arrangement of the traditional Chinese song “Maila,” which was accompanied by flautist Catherine Winters, a member of BYU Singers majoring in flute performance. “When I started to play the intro, the audience gasped and started whispering,” says Winters. “They were hearing something they loved and had grown up with. Feeling that response and seeing the love that they have for their country was amazing to me.”

Because of the joint concerts and workshops, Staheli says the 2015 tour to China was in many ways the most successful of all BYU Singers’ tours.

 

Choirs

After performing at the Tsinghua University Concert Hall as part of the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, BYU Singers began to work with a range of choirs. The group performed with the Beihang University Choir in Beijing and the Peiyang Chorus in Tianjin. “The Peiyang Chorus is associated with Tianjin University and is certainly one of the very best choirs in China,” says Staheli. “I kept saying that we met as strangers, we worked together as friends, and we parted as brothers and sisters.”

In Xi’an and Hangzhou, BYU Singers performed with the Shaanxi Normal University Student Chorus and the Zhejiang Conservatory Concert Choir. They also performed with the Wuxi Shanhe Chorus—a high-caliber community choir that travels internationally—in the massive and inspiring Wuxi Grand Theatre Concert Hall.

The way Staheli worked with the combined choirs taught Winters a memorable lesson. “Dr. Staheli is world renowned,” says Winters. “He is also one of the most humble men I know. It is the choirs who were privileged to work with him, but he showed that the privilege was all his. He was a big part of the link between the two cultures.”

 

CPAA

BYU Singers’ tour relied heavily on the university’s decade-long relationship with the China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA), which has coordinated numerous performances for BYU performing groups over the years. This year it helped organize five of the concerts (in Beijing, Jinan, Jinhua, Shanghai, and Changzhou). CPAA also arranged for the group to perform at Shanghai’s Songjiang Youth Center Theatre, where BYU Ballroom Dance Company visited last year. The bond between the two organizations has led to ever-increasing opportunities for collaboration in China.

On stage and in the streets, members of BYU Singers found satisfying relationships by sharing their passion for music with those they met. “We were welcomed with open arms at each stop along our way,” Staheli says. “It was a thrill to be able to share so much of what we hold dear simply by singing the way we sing, expressing the way we want to express, and being the people we want to be.”

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On his last tour as conductor of BYU Singers, Dr. Ronald Staheli directs both the BYU group and the Beihang University Choir.


PAM Welcomes New Artist Manager


Justin T. Smith joined Performing Arts Management in October, bringing with him more than 10 years of experience managing student programs throughout Europe, Asia, North and South America, and the Pacific Islands. He has negotiated performances at several high-profile venues, including Carnegie Hall, Yankee Stadium, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival. While attending BYU–Idaho and BYU, Justin performed in Showtime Company, Men’s Chorus, and Young Ambassadors. Additionally, he worked as both a business manager and a singer for the group Jericho Road. Justin earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from BYU and a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Virginia. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children

Justin Smith Artist Manager 2015-